PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Department of Education has failed to make the cut for the second straight year for federal grant money aimed at jump-starting early childhood programs.
Maine education officials said Friday they were surprised they were not among the winning states that will share $500 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” grant competition.
“There are aspects of our proposal that we will move more slowly on, but we will still be moving forward on plans to strengthen early childhood programs and increase access to them,” said Jaci Holmes, the Maine Education Department’s federal-state liaison.
The Obama administration announced Friday that California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington state were awarded grants in the competition for funding to get more children under age 5 ready for kindergarten. Research shows that children who attend quality early education programs do better in school and later as adults.
In all, 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for grants. Winners were selected based on the quality of their applications and the funds available. Maine officials said the state was awarded 221 out of a possible 280 points on its application.
The Maine departments of Education and Health and Human Services submitted a joint application in October seeking $32.2 million. The state planned to use the grant money to fund training and technical assistance for early childhood education programs and educators with the aim of taking a patchwork of early-learning programs supported from a variety of funding sources and moving them toward consistent standards of quality.
The money also would be used to continue developing a public report card system to inform parents about the quality of available programs, while also training early childhood educators and incorporating more of the state’s early learning and development programs into Maine’s data systems to inform educators and the public about which ones are most effective.
Officials said they will move forward with their plans, but some aspects will have to be delayed or scaled back without the federal grant money.
For instance, the state will have to wait to hire trainers or technical assistants for early childhood programs until more funding becomes available. It will also have to put off outreach professional development in Maine’s most rural areas, and will have to delay the development of a proposed bachelor’s degree program at the University of Southern Maine focusing on teaching students with high needs.
“The intent is to have quality standards to look at outcomes for children, quality programs that are consistent across the state and a highly qualified work force,” Holmes said. “We are still committed to enhancing the quality of services and analyzing the outcomes for the children.”